New Tidal Research Begins

Published January 26, 2021

Image: Sustainable Marine Energy's PLAT-I

As new tidal energy devices are expected in the Minas Passage over the next few years, new research is aimed at understanding potential risks tidal devices may pose to fish.

Research partners that include FORCE, Ocean Tracking Network at Dalhousie University, the Mi’kmaw Conservation Group, Acadia University, and Marine Renewables Canada have begun work on a “risk assessment program” – or RAP – to gauge the probability that fish will encounter a tidal device.

“The first years of activity around tidal energy in Nova Scotia focussed on building the facility to plug tidal devices into the power grid,” says Tony Wright, general manager of FORCE. “Now, our main focus is marine science.”

Tidal energy holds significant potential to reduce emissions and meet climate change targets. Part of understanding its potential involves accurately assessing any potential risks that tidal devices may pose to the marine ecosystem – particularly to fish.

“Our team at FORCE is now primarily science-based, including a core group of research scientists and ocean technologists, working to better understand the physical and biological conditions of this site,” says Wright. “Working with others, we’re building a tool to assess the risk of fish interaction before a tidal device even goes in the water. That’s how we get this right.”

The RAP project is building a high-resolution radar network to map currents, eddies, and waves in the Minas Passage. All these features affect the distribution of fish. At the same time, the RAP team is gathering the largest fish data set on fish movement in the Bay of Fundy, analyzing hydroacoustic tagging data for multiple species.

 “Once we combine these two data sets, we’ll be able to estimate, for the first time, the probability that a fish will encounter a turbine,” says FORCE science director Dr. Dan Hasselman.

Adds Wright: “We’re engaged in this effort because of the Bay of Fundy’s potential role in helping us move away from fossil fuels and respond to the threat of climate change. The fact is tidal energy is probably the most dependable source of renewable energy on the planet. But there’s work to do before it can stand beside wind and solar as a safe, viable, and affordable solution – and the RAP program is a vital step in the right direction.”

RAP is funded in part by the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia. Key partners include Acadia University, Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE), Marine Renewables Canada (MRC), Mi’kmaw Conservation Group (MCG), Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, Ocean Tracking Network (OTN), and Dalhousie University. Read more about RAP here.